Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sara's Smile

These are Sara's hats.

Sara was my grandmother- and I was named for her.

The Sara I remember jammed one of these hats on to her head every Sunday or for every special occasion. Her lips were drawn in a straight line- I'm not sure that I ever remember a smile crossing Sara's face. She lived in impovrished Harrison County- once beautiful by all accounts, but stripped of it's coal, it was a barren wasteland when I visited there during my childhood. Although my mother was raised on the family farm, by the time I knew Sara, she lived in a dark little house in a little town.
She could answer every Jeopardy question-like a machine. She taught Latin and any other subject that might be required. By all accounts, she worked hard, going back to teaching during the war because there was a shortage of teachers, continuing her household duties, fed every
hobo that knocked on her back door. My cousin remembers Sara substituting as a teacher in his classroom and rapping him sharply across the knuckles with a ruler.

My mom remembers a Sara who laughed- a lot. My mom remembers that she was funny, that she joked often with her husband George, who was by all accounts a hardworking "horse-trader"- never without a story or a helping hand. She remembers that Sara loved to dress up.

She played basketball in her youth- oh how cool those uniforms were, and was the first female in her family to attend college.

She was a writer. I know this because we have stacks of compositions, on yellow paper, written in a careful hand, excellent penmanship. They are interesting- full of details and insights. They stop after her college years.

We learned, long after she was gone from us that she had a first love who died tragically while they were engaged. My aunt knew of this, though my mother did not. We found this picture not to long ago- in an album full of black pages, carefully labeled with white ink.

While my eyes still see a certain resemblance to the wicked witch of the west- I love the smile on her face.
I wonder when she lost that smile? Perhaps after my grandfather died? Perhaps life just got difficult and began to overwhelm her? Perhaps when the dementia that defined her later years began to creep in ?
I have been wondering about Sara lately.
She left a legacy - a family of hardworking individuals, who all seem to remember to laugh frequently. I feel badly that she lost her smile. I wonder if she ever remembered the swish of a basketball? I wonder if she remembered the self who loved easily and laughed often. I wonder if she remembered pouring her soul out onto a piece of paper? I wonder what she might have done to stay connected to that part of herself.
The world seems to be a difficult place lately. Let's not forget the things that make us smile.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Beautiful remembrance, Sally. It sounds like the makings of a wonderful book! I love the pictures! And you're so right. I don't want the hardships of life to chip away my smile and my joy!

  3. Judith writes, "Alzheimer's doesn't announce itself with an ache, a pain, a limp. It rolls in like a fog. It dissipates. It leaves space for denial." from Judith Fox...
    I read this in another blog and it reminded me of your thoughts on Sara...

  4. How wonderful that you have things to remember her by. And those writings - I bet that must be some interesting reading!
    Thanks for sharing your grandmother with us.

  5. I wish I had some memories from the pre dementia days- from all I have heard- Sara was quite a woman..
    Thanks for stopping by :)